Staunton, May 10 – At least one of the reasons the Kremlin has given for Vladimir Putin’s decisions to fire or even arrest the heads of federal subjects is that such moves will enhance political stability in this or that oblast or republic or at least reverse situations where instability seemed most likely.
But a new rating by the Petersburg Politics Foundation finds that where Putin has taken such actions, ratings of stability in the regions involved has declined rather than increased, exactly the opposite of what he supposedly has intended (https://fpp.spb.ru/fpp-rating-2017-04 and http://fedpress.ru/news/77/policy/1784327).
On the one hand, this may be only a short-term phenomenon. When a longtime leader leaves and a new one comes in, it is entirely reasonable to expect that there will be problems with the transition with whose connected to the old regime seeking to protect themselves either by ingratiation, resistance or other means.
But on the other, this finding suggests that Putin’s favorite tool for bring the governors in line may not be working at least in the current environment and that if he replaces more regional heads, he and Moscow will face more problems rather than fewer. Some undoubtedly will use this to argue against any further changes at least until after the presidential vote.
And that could have another consequence: governors who feel they are protected as a result of this finding could decide to act more independently by appealing to the population rather than acting as if Putin is their own constituent. If some do, that could be yet another unintended consequence of the Kremlin leader’s recent moves against this group of cadres.